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Alton Towers owner admits breaking health and safety laws over Smiler rollercoaster crash

The accident in June last year seriously injured five people

Lizzie Dearden
Friday 22 April 2016 10:29 BST
Smiler has the most inversions of any coaster in the world
Smiler has the most inversions of any coaster in the world (MEPICS)

The owners of Alton Towers have admitted breaching health and safety laws over the Smiler rollercoaster crash.

The accident in June last year left five people seriously injured, including young women who had to have part of their legs amputated.

Merlin, the company that operates the theme park, indicated a guilty plea to a charge of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act in court on Friday.

Alton Towers victim speaks out

Speaking at the North Staffordshire Justice Centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, District Judge Jack McGarva warned that the firm “may be ordered to pay a very large fine”.

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd had previously accepted responsibility for the crash after carrying out its own internal investigation into how a rollercoaster car collided with a stationary carriage on the track.

It is being prosecuted under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which stipulates that it is employers’ duty to ensure people are not “exposed to risks in their health or safety”.

Five people were seriously injured in the crash on 2 June, which was seen by dozens of horrified visitors to the popular theme park.

Sixteen people were injured in the collision on a low section of the ride, which can reach speeds of up to 50 mph and has a record-breaking 14 loops.

The scene at the Smiler rollercoaster at Alton Towers shortly after the crash last summer (PA)

Those most badly hurt were Vicky Balch and Daniel Thorpe, from Buxton in Derbyshire, Leah Washington and Joe Pugh, from Barnsley, and Chandaben Chauhan, from Wednesbury, West Midlands.

Miss Washington and Miss Balch each underwent partial leg amputations as a result of their injuries, while Mr Pugh had both kneecaps shattered and Mr Thorpe suffered a collapsed lung.

The 500-acre theme park in Staffordshire was shut for four days following the accident and The Smiler did not reopen until last month.

In a statement issued after the Health and Safety Executive announced its intention to prosecute in February, Merlin said: “We have co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive throughout their investigation while continuing to support those who were injured in the accident.

"The company completed its own investigation and published the results in November, accepting responsibility for what happened. We have also kept the HSE fully informed of the subsequent actions that we have taken to ensure that something like this cannot happen again."

Additional reporting by PA

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